Monday, June 29, 2015

Hey, Hey, Hey, Walls!


What all is going on this week?.... I haven’t kept good notes on what happened during the week so my mind is kind of blank.

We had a Zone meeting on Tuesday, but most of the zone was at the mission office for the day renewing visas and I was the only DL that ended up showing up, so it wasn't really the most effective zone meeting we’ve ever had.

G*, our ami, is taking an extended vacation back to her village so it will be awhile before we'll see her again.

On Thursday we went with some Togolaise church officials to look at new apartments in Porto Novo. We are  not sure what the plan is for the new apartment--whether they want to move another 4 missionaries out here, split us up into 2 apartments of 2 missionaries each, or get rid of our current apartment and move us all into one that is closer to the church. The Transfer call is this Saturday, so we'll see what happens.

One of the apartments we looked at was right next to our former ami, Mary Jose's house. It has been awhile since we visited her. We pulled up in the car, and as soon as we got out all of the children and the women there started screaming, 'Hey Hey Hey Walls!'

On Saturday, we attended the reception for our next door neighbors First Communion in the Catholic church. It was fun to be there. We are all really good friends with our neighbors so it was good to be there to support them. And the food was really good too!

The couple missionaries came to visit us to do cleaning inspection and they ended up staying awhile to tell stories. Elder Dyson is from New Zealand and shared a little about the church's history there, and I think it’s probably more interesting than anything that happened to me during the week.

He says the Maori people are local to New Zealand, and in the early 1800’s the Europeans started to come over in ships and colonize. They brought all of their different churches with them. The Maori people generally accepted the message of Jesus Christ, but were not sure of which church to join. They organized a council to discuss which of the churches was right for the Maori people. They sent one of their high priests into the sacred hills (there is a name for the place, but I can't remember it now) to pray and find the answer. He fasted and prayed for 3 days in the hills and returned with this answer:

“The church for the Maori people is not yet here, but when it comes you'll know it by these signs: 1) I will be dead and no grass will have grown on my grave up until the day that they come. 2) They will come from the east sea. 3) They will live in your homes and speak our language. 4) And they will pray with their hands up (apparently at this point in the church this was custom during meetings).”

The missionaries arrived around 40 years later doing all of these things. They’d learned a little of the language from a member in Salt Lake, lived in locals homes, etc. One of the members of that original council 40 precedent was still living and pointed them out as being the church, so they went and visited the grave of the priest and saw grass starting to push up through the ground.

The church started up and was almost completely made up of Maori people for many years. Eventually white people started joining as well, and meetings began being held in English. They wanted a temple, but didn’t even have a stake at that point. An Apostle visited, and pointed out the sacred hills as being where to build it. The land was currently owned by a farmer, who refused to sell it. However, he died just 3 months later, and the church was able to buy it from his children. Originally the children disagreed about the price, but the current mission president, who was a rich Texas oil-man, threw a blank check on the table and told them to fill it out themselves. Then the members built the temple all on there own  and the church has been growing strong there ever since.

But anyways, that’s pretty much it. 

Have a good week, love you!
Elder Walls

Monday, June 22, 2015

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day!

Since we don’t get to call home and talk to you and wish you a Happy Father’s Day, I guess email is the next best option. I'm not sure why we only get to call home on Mother's day, maybe the church thinks having a son out on a mission is harder for moms, probably true.

This week hasn't been the most productive. My comp was sick a few days, and so there isn’t much to report on. 

With having to stay home, I have really enjoyed being able to focus a little more heavily on my studies. On Thursday, I was in the middle of Mosiah, and by Saturday I'd finished the Book of Mormon again. I felt a little like Kolipoki from ‘The Other Side of Heaven' when he went into a 3-day trance of reading the scriptures in English and Tongan to learn the language. I was in the salon studying practically every free minute.

I have definitely found a deeper appreciation of the Book of Mormon. I have also followed the counsel of President Morin and started keeping a journal just for my studies--to keep notes of any thoughts, feelings, or impressions I receive while studying. It helps me to dive deeper into gospel doctrines and principles, and to retain the things I learn and feel. I used this method as I read Mosiah through Moroni this week, and found a lot of new things that I hadn’t noticed before. I really enjoy studying so much more now—an hour a day doesn’t really do it for me anymore!

President Morin's son and his daughter in law are visiting for a month and came to church with us this Sunday. They are a cute couple, with very thick Quebecois accents like the President's wife. It takes me some time to adjust to different accents--I've gotten so used to hearing French the way the Africans here speak. 

Anyways, no big news, I’m going to try to send photos.

Have a great week!
Elder Walls

PS Yes, Mom, I am feeling thin as well, but I think I've stopped losing weight. We eat pretty well now. I plan on binge eating when I get home, so I will gain back some weight!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Lots of Firsts this Week


We've had a pretty productive week. Lots of different things going on and I don’t really know where to begin with it all, so I guess I'll just go in order of when things went down.

First of all, we found a monkey! I know people think that Africa is full of elephants, giraffes and all sorts of animals, but we never really see any of those here in the more civilized part of the continent. We were just walking around doing some street contacting, and we stumbled upon a slightly drunk guy who wanted to show us some of his neighbors (we'll take any chance we can get to meet new people). We walked into the little parcel and immediately saw the little monkey sitting in a cage off to the side. The monkey’s name was Bobo, and he was very nervous to see us and couldn’t stop jumping around. We did manage to pet him a little without him freaking out or biting anyone.

Our next-door neighbors got robbed. Which is surprising because most of the houses here have better security than the others. Apparently, the robbers are pretty well known in our area and are pretty good at their job. Mom, don't worry about us, our apartment is the smallest of them all and is full of men instead of women and children like the others. We make sure to lock everything up securely. 

I also got to do my first baptismal interview this week with Solange, the ami of Ribera.  We had a baptismal service on Saturday, and it went pretty well. We showed up at the church with the plan to take a taxi to the hotel pool like usual, but found that the baptismal font at the church was finished, with plumbing and tiling, everything. So we starting filling it up, but the workers at the church showed up and insisted that we had to wait until the next week. The members wanted to use the font anyway, but we convinced them to listen to the workers. So we all piled into the taxi. As usual, we crammed it full with as many people as possible. In the past we’ve gotten as many as 13 people into the little 5-seater, but this time I’m not really sure how many we had in the car because Ribera and I had to ride in the trunk (see photo below). Definitely, not a very comfortable ride, but it makes for a good story. 

I got to direct the service, which was a first as well; everything went well except the pool management tried to give us problems. Every baptism we’ve done this past year has been at that pool, and we’ve always done it the same way. We can wear the baptismal clothes in the pool and we only have to pay 1000 cfca for each person that will enter the pool. We called the night before to assure that everything was fine, and they said it was. However, upon arriving, they insisted that we pay 500 cfca for every single person that watched the baptism as well, and that we could not wear the baptismal clothes in the pool. We already had to pay 6000 for the taxi and 200 for every single motocycle taxi for the members. We weren’t looking to compromise. All we said was that we were going ahead with our baptism as planned, and that we would never be coming back (that kind of shocked them--I don’t think they get much business). Luckily for us they didn’t know that we now have our own font and weren’t planning on coming back anyway.

Also during the week we found an exciting new ami. We were staying with one of our amis who cuts hair in his shop, and a young guy walked in to get his haircut. We talked a little with him and gave him a brochure with our contact. He seemed more interested in getting our help to obtain a US Visa then in hearing our message. I liked him though. And something about him caught my attention, more than other guys we have met. We called him up later in the week to fix a rendezvous, and he said that he would come to find us so that he could show us his house. (That is usually how we found people's houses here, seeing as there are no addresses.) What was different about this time was that he came to get us in a car! Definitely a first, no one here has a car unless they have money or unless they are a taxi driver. His car was much nicer than any taxi—it was a midsize SUV. We were both pretty impressed, and not sure how he had this sort of money. We showed up to his house and found that it also was very nice (much nicer than our own apartment). Turns out, he still lives with his father, who is the equivalent to a Senator. He has had much more education than our other amis. 

We taught both him and his father together. We were actually kind of nervous because we don’t usually teach people who have this kind of status. I felt kind of like being before King Lamoni. He says that he’s heard of our church before and is impressed with what he’s heard. We shared the Book of Mormon with him and taught a little, but he insisted that we'd have to be quick because he had to go to a devotional at his own church. We let him go, and then headed back home to teach one of our neighbors. We were sitting in front of our house with our neighbor, and we saw his car again heading to his church. We waved, and they waved as well, but continued on. We said an opening prayer with our neighbor, then saw that a crowd of people was assembling at the end of the road; we all went to go see what was happening and saw that his car (that we had been in just an hour or two beforehand) had caught fire! We put it out quick with dirt, and everything seemed fine, so we rolled it off to a mechanic and he remarked that this was God's way of telling him that he needed a new car. Interpret it how you like, in any case he wasn’t able to make it to his church that evening. Well hopefully be able to see him again in the week.

On the funnier note, we ate at Isaac's after the baptism; nothing special, just akassa, which is another genre of patte. He did however have me eat cow skin; which wasn’t that appetizing. It was very rubbery. I’m getting very good at disguising my reaction to foods, and also at swallowing without thinking about taste.

Sunday was crazy as usual as well. We left around 7:30 to make sure we'd be there well before 9:00, but a few minutes into our walk we started seeing heavy clouds and strong winds (uh-oh). Rain starting pouring about halfway into our walk, so we spent a decent 20 or 30 minutes walking/running in the rain. It was tiring because we were drenched and I honestly felt like I was swimming at times. But made it! On time! Completely soaked with no towels or changes of clothes or anything. We were a little worried because only a few other members were there. The actual Sacrament meeting started at 9:40 because of the difficulty for members getting there in the rain. We held Sacrament, then I taught Sunday School, and then we sang some hymns and closed because many of the other leaders weren’t there.

I really liked the Sunday school lesson; it talked about reasons why people fall away from the church and how we need to stay firm in our belief. I shared Hel 5:12 about being built on a strong foundation and then used an example I’ve always liked to convey the idea. I had Ribera stand on a chair, and had three young men come to knock him down.Then the second time I had the other missionaries come to support him and help him stay up. People liked it pretty well. Definitely one of upsides of being in a young branch is that people have never seen these object lessons before.

Anyways, that’s what’s going on with us, we were planning on having the baptism for Saurel this upcoming Saturday. However, with the rain most all of our amis didn’t come to church, so we are postponing.

Glad to hear from you all. Make sure to tell Grandpa that I got his message and that I’m thinking about him and praying for him as he goes through chemo.

Have a good week!
Elder Walls

No, I haven't been kidnapped! Just traveling in style to a baptism!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Church is Growing


The space bar is sticking pretty bad today, sorry for the poor grammar.

There is not much to write about for this week. We have had to stay in a couple of days with sickness. Plus we’ve had pretty heavy rain, and we had to go to Cotonou twice in the week to take care of our visas.

Our ami, Saurel, should be getting baptized soon. Originally it was planned for the 13th but he wants to push it back to the 20th, which is fine. We also have our newer ami, Sitou, who has started coming to church and is scheduled to be baptized on the 27th. I don’t remember if I’ve told you about him or not, but has really accepted our message. He also has an interesting health problem. He was having throat pains and went to a traditional doctor here, and they gave him some rocks to swallow to resolve the problem. Unfortunately, he started choking on them, and after passing them; his throat closed up, and has been swollen ever since. Now he has trouble eating and drinking. 

In other news, my convert, Annette (the one who nearly drowned before her baptism), is moving back to Adja to stay with her parents for the summer vacation. I'm a little concerned because there is no church in that area right now. I have some contact information for her and I’ve informed our RS president about her. I am sure she will be fine.

Things are going well, the church is growing. The are adding a baptismal font to our building! Currently, they are tearing down walls. And everything is being painted purple—kind of an interesting choice for a church, but I guess there are no rules against it. It will be nice to have our own baptismal font--we won't have to travel to another area to rent out a swimming pool. 

Not much else to report. Miss you all and hope you’re doing well.

Love you,
Elder Walls

Monday, June 1, 2015


I lost my entire message!!! I typed it up and lost it,,,GAH!

In brief...

My comp was sick on Wednesday, so we stayed home. I washed my sheets, read the book of Judges, and made no bake cookies. If you stay home with sickness you have to find something to keep yourself occupied.

I visited my convert Donald (who is 10 yrs. old) and his family. He was very cute and asked us to bless his pen (I guess it has been having some problems). We didn’t give it a blessing but we did say a prayer for him and his pen. 

We have a new Ami, Sitou, who is around 24. He accepted my invitation to be baptized on the 27th, hopefully he honors his engagements so he can be ready for that date. We’ve only taught him once but I’m excited to see how he goes.

Alright, I miss you guys have a great week!
Elder Walls

No Bake Cookies are a success!